Internationally sought after for her fine workmanship and intricate embroideries, Chandni Jha, director of Divinia Exports, believes God is in the details.
When Chandni started her Mumbai-based export house specialising in the manufacture of high-end and contemporary embroidered garments for design labels across the world eight years ago, “with very little capital and no real international contacts, it took a lot of divine guidance, and a lot more divine intervention,” she reminisces on being asked about the origin of her company’s name (Divinia is ancient Greek for ‘Divine’).
“I started with only Rs.30,000 as capital. I trolled the Internet looking for phone numbers of designers and design houses. Out of maybe a 100 cold calls, 15 people agreed to take a look at my work, 7- 8 responded asking to see more, at least 3-4 out of these seven either didn’t return the embroidery swatches I sent them or else returned them with a ‘thanks but no thanks’ and 2-3 agreed to try me out. From these 2-3, I built my business to what it is today”, Chandni recalls.
She can now count among her clients appreciable names of the fashion world like YSL, Moschino, Collette Dinnigan, Alice Temperley, Jenny Packham, Alice + Olivia, Givenchy and La’orange among others. Her embroideries have graced the outfits of celebrities the likes of Carrie Underwood, Aishwarya Rai, Kerry Washington, Cate Blanchett and Kylie Minogue.
Formally trained in fashion design from SNDT University, Chandni “figured out that my interests and strengths lay in organisation rather than design. And manufacturing is just that — a whole lot of organisation. Doing what I do, I get the best of both worlds. I get to design embroideries and I can use my organisational skills to ensure my clients receive their designs manufactured to their satisfaction”.
But her chosen field comes with its own set of challenges. Chandni shares, “I have to think on my feet more often than is comfortable. In the course of eight years, I have dealt with my factory catching fire due to a short-circuit, theft in the office and a worker forging my signature and withdrawing Rs.65,000 from my bank account. You just have to keep your head down and keep going. Get your basics right, know why you’re doing what you’re doing, and know that the tough times are not permanent. At least, that’s what works for me. And never compromise on the most important aspect of the business — quality, quality, quality”.
First job: I modelled when I was 16 and that’s where I made my first pay cheque.
Last book read: I read an average of three-four books a week. The ones I have enjoyed most in the recent times have been The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami and Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson.
Motto: It’s a Japanese proverb — nana korobiyaoki — meaning ‘fall down seven times, get up eight times’. I have it tattooed on my wrist.
Inspiration: Women like Anita Roddick, Bobbi Brown, Ali Hewson and IndraNooyi who have a strong work ethic. And people who work hard and create a better environment around them for it.